Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill

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  • Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill
  • We rarely have had good copies on the site up in recent years – these are tough to come by in clean condition with this kind of sound
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.

Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.

Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.

What do the best Hot Stamper pressings give you?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A Note About The Mix

This album may not be up there with Sergio’s best sonically (not many albums are!), but it can still sound very good when you get the right stamper. The balance of this record takes some getting used to. We weren’t sure what to make of it at first. If you put your stereo in Mono you will hear dead center sound. After putting it back in stereo you find most of the sound in the left channel — it took us a while to understand it’s just a choice they made for the mix.

The average copy of this record is thin, aggressive and irritating. What separates the best copies like this one from those typical bad sounding copies is more extension on the top end to balance out the upper midrange and lower highs, and more weight on the bottom end, to correct the overall tonal balance.

If you are at all familiar with this record, it’s easy to spot the good ones: as soon as you drop the needle on side one, you can hear that the tape hiss sounds correct. The high frequency content of the tape hiss is intact. On the bad ones, the tape hiss sounds dull, which means that the extended highs are missing, leaving only the painfully edgy lower highs.

Famously Bass Shy

The next thing you want to check for is that there is enough bass. Most copies are quite thin sounding. Even the best copies aren’t rich and full-bodied the way some of his other albums are, but the goal here is to find the best sounding pressing, not to find the perfect pressing because there isn’t one in my experience. The bass on this copy is ahead of the curve with note-like tone and texture.

The CD Sucks!

Those of you who have purchased some of their CDs may have noted that they do not sound particularly good, as though little are or effort was expended in their mastering, which is no doubt the case. Almost any good original brown label A&M pressing will be dramatically better.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Fool On the Hill 
Festa 
Casa Forte 
Canto Triste 
Upa, Neguinho

Side Two

Lapinha 
Scarborough Fair 
When Summer Turns to Snow 
Laia Ladaia

Allmusic Review

Having hit upon another smash formula — cover versions of pop/rock hits backed by lavish strings, a simplified bossa nova rhythm, and the leader’s piano comping — Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 produced two more chart-busting singles, again turning to the Beatles for sustenance with the title track (number six) and Simon & Garfunkel for “Scarborough Fair” (number 16).

But again, the bulk of the album was dominated by Brazilians, and by one in particular: the hugely gifted Edu Lobo, whose dramatic “Casa Forte” and infectious “Upa, Neguinho” were the best of his four songs.

The tracks were longer now, the string-laden ballads (arranged by Dave Grusin) more lavish and moody, and Lani Hall emerged as the vocal star of the band, eclipsing her new partner, Karen Philipp (although Hall is upstaged on “Lapinha” by future Brasil ’77 member Gracinha Leporace).

Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records. Cultural note: the striking foldout cover art, depicting Brasil ’66 at sunset seated on top of a nude woman, somehow made it past the uptight censors of the day and no doubt boosted sales; it was Mendes’ highest-charting album at number three.